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NAO Robot: Changing the Game in the Care of Autistic Children and Beyond

Posted by Kate Stanton
January 24, 2014
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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Boston office of Aldebaran Robotics whose unique humanoid robot NAO is being used in research facilities across the globe. Well…I’ll let him tell you about it himself.

 

 

Several months ago I wrote a guest post on the Detroit Medical Center’s Always There Blog featuring NAO and several other robots on the ways robotics is transforming patient care. I became very interested in NAO in particular, partly because of the sheer attraction to such a unique robot that can not only play soccer and dance to Thriller, but mostly for the potential of this technology to change lives.

 

 

When I sat down with Nat Dukan, US Marketing Manager and Alia Pyros, Marketing & Communications Manager for the ASK NAO initiative, I sought to learn about the company as a whole and the specific applications being developed for NAO within healthcare.

 

One particular application that has been developed is the Autism Solution for Kids, or ASK NAO. I was first introduced to this initiative when attending a meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s Robotics Cluster.

 

As the mission statement says:

 

“This initiative was developed after noticing that many children with Autism seem impulsively attracted to technology therefore allowing NAO to become the perfect bridge between technology and our human social world.”

 

The interest in this program has been significant; so much so that an online community of families and developers from across the globe has come together to collaborate on applications to improve and grow the program. It is crucial to the company to ensure the ASK NAO platform can be successful in monitored learning environments with trained educators prior to offering a solution for families with autistic children.

 

Along with the autism initiative, researchers are looking into other ways NAO may be applied within the healthcare system. The intelligent design of this robot has fostered potential to elevate human-robot interaction into a useful platform for solving daily challenges. As discussed in my previous blog post, the University of Calgary is studying the impact NAO can have on the experience of children in stressful situations such as when receiving vaccinations. Additionally, the University of Denver is researching the effect the robot can have on adults suffering from depression by observing behaviors and offering positive motivation. NAO even has the potential to assist elderly and/or blind individuals in doing daily tasks such as reading the newspaper, allowing individuals to take back some of their autonomy. These are just some of the ways researchers are harnessing the power of company’s technology to transform human-robot interaction into a successful platform for assistance, education, and motivation.

To date, the Aldebaran Robotics has sold over 5,000 robots globally, mainly to educators and research institutions. Nat explains however that they are taking it slow in terms of commercialization. The goal is to invest their efforts in research and development to improve existing platforms and generate new applications.

 

While it will be some time before the NAO robot is available to the general public, the company is planning a tour of the United States with events every two weeks. The tour will bring together the ever growing community of researchers and professionals with interested individuals who do not have access to the technology where they will be able to participate in lectures and hands-on sessions.

Technologies such as NAO demonstrate the potential that robotics have in improving lives and give a glimpse into the myriad ways that robotics are becoming a critical tool in modern healthcare.

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